His achievements are practically unbelievable considering his meager, humble beginnings. Along the way, he failed more times (and more spectacularly) than most of us could stomach in a lifetime.
Here are seven ways Jack Ma experienced soul-crushing failure, but managed to keep his optimism, just like his hero, Forrest Gump. He...
1. Didn’t give up after failing many exams at school.
Jack Ma was not a good student. In fact, he almost didn’t get into middle school.
"I failed a key primary school test two times, I failed the middle school test three times, I failed the college entrance exam two times…” Ouch. These are things most of us are lucky enough to have never said to our parents.
2. Scored 1 out of 120 points on the math portion of his college entrance exam.
Failing is one thing. Getting a score of less than 1 percent on your college entrance exam is something else completely. And it wasn’t because he didn’t have time to prepare. To this day, Jack Ma struggles with mathematics, despite the fact that Alibaba is a tech company.
To quote Ma: “I am not good at math, have never studied management, and still cannot read accounting reports."
But as it turns out, he never needed to be good at math to become a billionaire. Perhaps even more impressive is that he never heard the word “computer” in his childhood.
3. Wasn’t deterred after being rejected from Harvard 10 times.
It’s not so much that being rejected from Harvard 10 times is surprising, it’s that he bothered applying that many times in the first place. What this shows us is that Jack Ma is the paradigm of persistence. “The very important thing you should have is patience.”
His wife, Zhang Ying (who married him before he became wealthy), doesn’t mind his appearance. “Ma Yun is not a handsome man, but I fell for him because he can do a lot of things handsome men cannot do.”
6. Couldn’t convince Silicon Valley to fund Alibaba.
Even after he started Alibaba, he suffered multiple failures. It wasn’t profitable the first three years. In the beginning, they expanded too fast and almost imploded when the dot-com bubble burst. At one point, Alibaba was just 18 months away from bankruptcy.
As Jack Ma humbly notes: “I call Alibaba ‘1,001 mistakes.’”
7. Told his 18 Alibaba partners that none of them could be execs.
Jack Ma is a classic rags-to-riches story, but even more impressive than his fabulous wealth is his uncanny level of persistence. He is proof that no series of failures (despite how cripplingly depressing) can keep someone from achieving their dreams.
As Jack says: “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”